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Archive for the ‘frustrations’ Category

Why do I get so ambitious sometimes?  I got this great idea a few days ago to have my students write a group essay using Google Docs.  Trying to get my students to learn how to write an essay is going to be a monumental task, so I thought practicing as a group first would be a good idea.  They’re having a lot of fun with the topic (they’re writing descriptive essays about weird houses I found on the Internet).  But Google Docs may not work so well.  I took my students to the lab yesterday and they all set up Google accounts and they uploaded their work into Google Docs.  For some groups, everything went really well, and for the others…disaster.

Has anyone used Google docs in the classroom?  Ever tried a group essay?  Any suggestions?  I’m always amazed at the simple technology my students can’t understand when they spend most of their free time online.– Ashley

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Okay, time to get the blog rolling again…

Our next research potluck will be Friday, February 4.  The topic will be Critical Thinking Skills.  Sophia and I have been really interested lately in how to teach critical thinking skills to our students.  These skills are valued in the American university system, but they also seem to be very culture specific, meaning, essentially, our students don’t have these skills.  So, what do we do?  Exciting discussion awaits at our February potluck! If you’ve got ideas, hit the comments and let me know.– Ashley

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Such an easy way to prevent cheating!!!

Anti-Cheating Device!

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They get the bottom two. And then they get lost.

My limited experience as a teacher has taught me that critical thinking skills, while lauded and emphasized in the US, are sorely lacking in many of my students.  They know how to memorize.  They know how to regurgitate information.  They can even (sometimes) understand what they’re learning.  But they can’t do anything else with that knowledge.  When I try to get them to apply previously-learned concepts to new situations, I get blank stares.  When I try to get them to evaluate the effectiveness of a person’s argument or respond to another student’s comment in class–more blank stares.

So, I’ve been trying to emphasize critical thinking skills in my classes.  I don’t hold any illusions that American college students are particularly good at this either, but I know they can bluff their way through it a lot better than my international students can.  In speaking class, I’ve had my students create discussion questions based on our class readings.  This actually worked really well.  The students were more engaged in class discussion than I’d ever seen them.

But then writing class.  I’ve assigned them a problem/solution essay.  Basically, they identify a problem and propose a solution.  It didn’t sound that hard to me.  When I taught Americans, they loved the assignment.  They had so many ideas, and surprisingly enough, they were interesting.  My students’ “problems” have been terrible–difficult to understand or, worse, impossible to solve (like “there are too many tornadoes in Kansas”).  Their “solutions” have been even worse.  Either they propose solutions that already exist or that would impossible to implement.

So, what I’m wondering is- how do we get them to start thinking critically?  No one taught me how in college.  I basically already knew, and what I didn’t know, I picked up.  But I was raised in an American educational system, so I had an advantage.  If we don’t teach them to think critically in their ESL classes, will they learn anywhere else?– Ashley

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Sometimes I think Tuesday might just be the worst day of the week.  Monday can suck, but there’s also this idealistic motivation that Monday brings–“I’m going to get so much accomplished this week!”  And then Tuesday rolls around.  The end of the week is still nowhere in sight, and Monday’s motivation has been replaced by Tuesday’s sluggishness.

I even find this happens in my teaching.  I always plan assessment for Friday (quizzes, in-class essays, etc.), so there’s something to work toward every week.  This makes planning Thursday and Friday pretty easy.  Review one day, take the quiz/test the next day.  But how do I fill up the rest of the week?  I seem to be dragging on Tuesdays and then rushing on Thursdays.

All this to say- I’ve discovered that Tuesdays are less interminable when I’ve created little fun side projects to do.  I’m working on some Camtasia videos right now, which I find vastly more interesting than grading my student’s homework.  So I’m making it a Tuesday task.  I’m looking for research articles for our next research potluck.  A perfect Tuesday task.

It’s worth noting here that my idea of fun and yours might not be exactly the same :)– Ashley

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